Spills and Emergencies

In case of a spill of radioactive material, the following procedures should be performed:

  1. Alert others in the laboratory that a spill has occurred.
  2. Contain and minimize the spread of contamination by covering the spill with absorbent material such as paper towels, padding, Kimwipes, etc. Cordon off the suspected area of contamination, or seal off the laboratory if the radioactive material is volatile.
  3. Contact the Radiation Safety Office (412-624-2728) as soon as possible.
  4. Taking the necessary precautions to limit exposure, determine the extent of contamination by monitoring the area with the appropriate survey instrument and/or by performing a smear survey.
  5. To clean up the spill: Decontaminate the area in convenient sectors by starting from the outer edge with a wiping and scrubbing motion and working in towards the center. Use a commercial decontamination product or a soap-and-water cleaning solution on paper towels or pads. Other additives such as alcohol or EDTA may also be used, depending on the chemical form of the contamination. Sodium bicarbonate should be used with radio-iodine spills to buffer the pH and reduce the volatilization of iodine gas.
  6. Package the contaminated waste from the clean up in a yellow bag and re-survey the area to make sure that there is no residual contamination.
  7. The Radiation Safety Office will assist in the monitoring, clean up, and survey operations.

In case of personnel contamination, the following procedures should be performed:

  1. Immediately remove any contaminated clothing or shoes, exercising caution not to spread or track the contamination further.
  2. Wash contaminated areas of skin with soap and water. Do not use hot water and do not use abrasive scrubbing, as this will only increase the passage of radioactive material through the skin.
  3. Call the Radiation Safety Office (412-624-2728) to evaluate the exposure.